Doug Stanhope’s newest memoir “This is Not Fame” won our coveted “Best Book by a Comedian” award this year, and this week Stanhope released an audio version of that book on Audible! An unfiltered, unapologetic, hilarious, and sometimes obscene assemblage of tales from the down-and-dirty traveling comedy circuit. While other comedians were seeking fame, Stanhope was seeking immediate gratification, dark spectacle, or sometimes just his pants. Not to say he hasn’t rubbed elbows with fame. Doug spares no legally permissible detail, and his stories couldn’t be told any other way. They’re weird, uncomfortable, gross, disturbing, and hilarious. “This Is Not Fame” is by no means a story of overcoming a life of excess, immorality, and reckless buffoonery. It’s an outright celebration of it. For Stanhope, the party goes on. Our own Dan Murphy spoke with Doug this week about the new audiobook. Available now on Audible.com.
The publicist is apologetic.
“I just spoke to Doug,” he says. “He said he has his hands full right now. He needs to drop something off. He wants to know if he can call back in a few minutes.”
After having spent the past three days listening to Doug Stanhope’s new audiobook, This is Not Fame: A From What I Re-Memoir – a decadent and depraved collection of life lessons learned in seedy dives from hookers, comics, midgets, and an otherwise esoteric cast of characters – I can’t help but imagine what manner of sublime debauchery is keeping Stanhope from our scheduled call.
Maybe he’s trying to persuade a bemused call girl to dance The Floss in a West Hollywood motel room.
Perhaps he’s just had a gun pulled on him by a lush in an Alaskan gin mill (again).
Conceivably, his hands are preoccupied with some manner of rubber implement of pleasure provided to him by his friend Dr. John, the proprietor of Dr. John’s Lingerie and Adult Novelty Boutique.
When Stanhope joins the call a few minutes later, I can’t resist and – casting manners aside – I ask him what sort of debauchery caused the delay.
“I was checking into a hotel,” he said simply.
No call girls. No gun-toting lushes. No oversized marital aids. I must sound disappointed.
“When they meet me, people think they’re in for a full-on Hunter S. Thompson, day-long drunken adventure,” Stanhope said. “The truth is I’ve been a lazy fuck for so many years now. People are highly disappointed by how boring I am.”
* * *
If Stanhope has mellowed at all after slightly more than 50 years on this earth, it certainly doesn’t show in This is Not Fame, the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2016 book “Digging Up Mother: A Love Story”. “Digging Up Mother” was voted 2016’s Best Book Authored by a Comedian by Interrobang readers. “This is Not Fame” won the same honors for 2017.
This is Not Fame is a whirlwind tour through a 30-year fever dream of beer-soaked hell gig and hijinks, told in Stanhope’s inimitable everything-goes style. The foreword is done by Dr. Drew Pinsky who warns:
“Do not follow any of the practical wisdom you cull from this book. Do not consider this a template for how to live your life. This book should also convince you that if you see Stanhope heading your way, don’t make eye contact.”
This technically qualifies as medical advice.
Stanhope himself squashes any idea of a redemption in the introduction.
“At no point in this book will I find God, go on the straight and narrow or find any higher purpose,” he says. “You’re always going to find yourself better than me, even when I’m calling you a nugget of shit.”
There’s something refreshing about that.
As he did with “Digging Up Mother,” Stanhope frequently takes breaks from simply reading his book to riff on chapters with an assortment of guests, creating extra bonus material for the audiobook and giving it a podcast feel at times.
“With “Mother,” we got a lot of comments on social media with people saying they liked the audiobook because all the extra contest made it so different from the book,” Stanhope said (now comfortably checked into his hotel room). It also helps me because I’m a terrible reader. I fuck up continuously. I feel bad for the people that had to put the audiobook together.”
Stanhope splits narration duties with Chad Shank, his co-host on The Doug Stanhope Podcast. “I gave him the more difficult chapters to read,” Stanhope said. Others those joining Stanhope in the audio version of the book are Andy Andrist, Matt Becker, Brendon Walsh, and Brett Erickson. In addition to breaking things up a bit, these interludes also serve a more practical purpose, he said.
“I remember what I remember of the story, but there are grey areas when you live a life like this and you’re drunk for 30 years,” Stanhope said. His guests fill in some of the gaps and chime in with their perspectives on various episodes after Stanhope has recounted them in the book.
“After doing an audio version of the last book, I knew that I would be doing an audio version of this one, too, so I made an effort to write it more conversationally,” he said. “I don’t know if that worked or not, but I made the effort. And I think the little bonus content segments make it more conversational.”
Stanhope regales with stories about run-ins with the rich and famous, crashing Hollywood parties, and getting naked on stage in his long and winding road to becoming “famous.” It’s a wild and bizarre ride, and it’s intoxicating with each chapter seemingly one-upping the weirdness of the one that preceded it.
But writing (and then recording) a book about his adventures on the road presented a unique challenge.
“I wanted the book to be my memoirs of 20-plus years on the road, but usually the darkest stuff (that happens) is what I put in my act,” he said. “I had to think ‘What can I tell that I haven’t already told?’”
Fortunately, Stanhope found plenty of material.
The audiobook clocks in at more than 11 hours of content over the course of 47 chapters (including the foreword and introduction). Any time where things feel like they might be about to lag, a conversation with Andrist, Becker, or another guest provides a welcome break.
In his own words (and with his own voice), Stanhope can come across a number of ways – brash, self-righteous, self-deprecating, obnoxious, urbane. The important thing is that he’s always funny, and that’s what makes This is Not Fame worthwhile.
Given his penchant for indulging in alcohol or other substances before going on stage with his stand-up, it’s only natural to ask if he approached recording his audiobook the same way.
“I don’t go into anything sober,” Stanhope said. “Well, I’m sober for this interview, so if I sound disjointed or don’t make sense, that’s probably the reason why.”